If you’re familiar with Maggie Shayne’s writing you know the Brand family of Texas. The series has expanded to the five illegitimate daughters of Vidalia Brand who live in Oklahoma. They are illegitimate because their father was married to someone else prior to his marriage to Vidalia without the benefit of a divorce. Vidalia owns the town saloon and runs it with the help of her 4 adult daughters.
Edie Brand had escaped to the bright lights of Los Angeles and became the leading underwear model of the past decade. Suddenly, in time for her sister’s wedding, she reappeared in her small Oklahoma hometown, and then stayed. Brand New Headache opens as Vidalia challenges Edie to figure out what she wants to do with her life.
In reality, Edie is hiding from a stalker who has become so aggressive that he terrifies her. Nearing thirty she is being replaced by younger models, and acknowledges it is time for a career change. Her mom is pushing her into her old photography hobby as a choice. Edie, intent upon exploring that option, calls a realtor and starts looking for a house to serve as a studio.
The perfect house is for sale and Edie arrives to view it. Also taking the house tour is Wade Armstrong, who had gone to high school with Edie. Wade is still suffering from the effects of his “trailer park trash” upbringing by an alcoholic father. He is driven to buy the house because it represents to him the long desired recognition of his ability. Naturally, he is the only one who views himself in this manner as he has built a successful garage business and is a respected citizen. He still suffers from the gigantic crush he has always had on Edie.
Sparks fly when they meet again and in taunting Edie he drives her into buying the house out from under him. Her brother in law shames her into reconsidering and letting Wade buy it instead when the stalker strikes. Edie, realizes he has found her, moves to the new house to divert the stalker from harming her family. Gradually Wade finds out what is really going on, and becomes her protector.
This is a very old plot line, one we’ve all read before. That said, Maggie Shayne makes it work because of her talent in creating vivid, warm and memorable characters. Her entire series works because with each book she continues to flesh out the secondary characters as well. The dialogue is always in voice, crisp and fun.
Her ability to sustain romantic tension at the same time she is heightening suspense is well known and better done in this particular book than many of her others. Her scenes bring the reader the flavor of small town living in Oklahoma as well.
What could be better than a fun read with new but familiar characters that evoke the empathy the writer seeks?